Rom. 9:6 begins… “It is not as though God’s word had failed.” Read between the lines… Paul is writing this letter to real people in a real church in Rome; they feel God is failing them. Paul is tempted to think God let him down: the passion of his heart is for the Jewish people, his own brothers and sisters, his desire is for them to embrace Jesus Christ as Lord, yet, the Jews are far away from Christ. // In a perfect world it makes sense for the Jews to embrace Christ and give their allegiance to Jesus. But they haven’t. Individual Jewish people have… but not the nation. Paul’s answer: God can do whatever God wants: God IS God. God’s word cannot fail!
Life is supposed to have a certain rhythm; things are suppose to work out a certain way. To Paul, it would make more sense if the Jews would have simply embraced Jesus Christ and then fulfilled the prophecy that the Jewish people would shout out the good News of Jesus Christ to the world. That did not happen. Life is full of surprises. You never planned on getting a divorce. Death of a loved one threw off your plans…You aren’t supposed to have broken relationships, heartaches, disappointments. The truth is we don’t get God, it seems like prayers go unanswered, friends and family are supposed to be Christians by now. The Jews were supposed to be the first Christians that brought the message of salvation to the world. Life is full of surprises…
Paul’s answer is clear. We just don’t like the answer. HOWEVER, the moment you embrace the answer and accept the truth into your heart is the moment you will be flooded with the peace of God. The answer is found in Rom. 9:15. It’s easy to know exactly what it means, but accepting it in your heart is an entirely different matter.
In Rom. 9:6-18 Paul uses examples from O.T. stories to illustrate his answer, Pharaoh, Jacob and Esau, Ishmael and Isaac… The point: we cannot decipher why God chooses one path for some and a different path for others. I have no idea why God chose to have me born to wonderful and awesome parents. I don’t know why God made my home in the center of the world, Sumas, Washington. It wasn’t my doing. Why were you born in the U.S. and not in rural India? The point: It’s entirely at the discretion of God and we don’t know how his mind works. Two choices: accept or reject God’s sovereignty.
READ Rom. 9:15… You know in your head exactly what the words mean, but what about your heart: What’s God’s criteria? we hear the words but we rebel. Like the child that gets frustrated with the parent who halts the argument by saying, “because I’m your father!” Much of life seems so unfair…
Two judges were driving home one night, each in his car. They were both stopped by a policeman and given tickets for speeding. When their cases came up for hearing the next day, each judge agreed that each should have his case heard by the other. The first pleaded guilty and was promptly fined ten dollars. When they exchanged places the second judge, after pleading guilty, was rather shocked to receive a fine of fifteen dollars. "That's not fair'" he complained. "I only fined you ten dollars." "I know," the judge replied, "but there is too much of this sort of thing going on —this is the second case we've had today."
God says, I will be merciful to whom I will show mercy, and I will show compassion to whom I will show compassion.” That seems so unjust, for the same offense one person is fined $10 and another $15. We compare ourselves to others thinking we deserve what they got... When my father was diagnosed with leukemia I heard more than once he was so healthy, hiked a lot, ate well… why him? God IS God: his mercy is his to give as he sees fit ~ to some are given short lives and others long lives. When they ask 100 years olds the secret to a long life, nobody ever comes up with a key all of us can follow…because the length of our lives, and everything else, is entirely at God’s mercy… his decision…a marathon runner has a heart attack and dies and shocks the world…God IS God... Rom. 9:16 in the NLT says, “So receiving God’s promise is not up to us. We can’t get it by choosing it or working hard for it. God will show mercy to anyone he chooses.” Rom. 9:18: “…God shows mercy to some just because he wants to…”
Don’t forget the meaning of mercy. The moment you think life is unfair, remind yourself of the root meaning of the word MERCY: None of us deserve blessings or it would not be mercy. If you perceive life does not give you a fair shake, be grateful and wonder why any of us get any blessing.
Paul’s argument brings us face to face with God’s freedom: God IS God. We like talking about our freedom, but God has a greater freedom. That is the major point of Romans 9: God IS God. What does God’s freedom mean? A few implications, each a different aspect of Rom. 9:15…
A. God IS God: He is free to do whatever he wants to do. If God wants to create a planet, or a galaxy he speaks and it happens. If God decided it suited his purposes to have mammals live in the ocean and fish to walk on dry ground, he could do it. God is entirely free to make it rain in the late spring and be dry all the way through Oct. 12, thus shifting the normal growing season.
B. God IS God: He has the right to deal with us any way he chooses. God can give opportunity and he can take it away. He may choose to allow us to suffer the consequences of our bad choices, or mercifully alleviate suffering.
C. God IS God: He doesn’t have to treat me the way he treats my neighbor. Many struggle because they think because God did something for a friend, God must do the same thing for them. God can heal your neighbor of cancer and you may die of cancer. God might do the same, or he might do something different. He’s God.
D. God IS God: He doesn’t have to treat me the same today and tomorrow. God’s character never changes; He is always gracious, loving, holy, and just. That does not mean what happens to me today is a pattern for what will happen tomorrow. Today I may escape the speeding ticket and tomorrow I may not, but God is the same God in both situations. One day I may experience a miraculous life changing answer to prayer. The next day I may be called to wait on the Lord to bring relief.
E. God IS God: He will not tolerate any rivals to his throne. There is only one God and he demands our exclusive worship. The First Commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3 ESV).
F. God IS God: He is not obligated to live up to my expectations or to explain himself to me. Once in a while I’ll get a request in a funeral for the song to be played, “I did it my way.” Frankly, that tells me the person was stubborn and dug in his heels and did not get along with other people. I would rather it be said of me, “Carl was a dunce, till he finally let God be God.” God is not obligated to fulfill our plans. It’s a good thing. My plans have failed. God continually surprised his people in the Bible. Daniel in the Lions Den, Joseph in prison, a flood, Peter and Paul had a fight and divided, and it goes on and on … Everything happened as God promised, but nothing worked out the way people expected.
God doesn’t have to explain himself. As soon as you accept this truth in your heart, you will find peace. Years ago in Seattle, I was waiting at a bus stop on capital hill. A woman started talking to me and learned I was a Christian; she said she was a follower of sun yung moon… She had been raised Catholic, but when she became an adult rejected Christianity. Her reason was simple: she went to the priest, she went to other protestant pastors, and asked questions. Nobody had all the answers. But the Moonies did.
The truth is we often don’t know why God chooses what he chooses: God IS God. He is high and lifted up. As we consider God’s wholly other character, we are eventually led to a humbling truth: God does not need us for anything. Most of us want to feel we are important and necessary. And we like to think God must have needed us, why would he create us? Do you really think God can’t get along without you? When the Pharisees told Jesus to scold the crowds as he entered Jerusalem the final time, he replied, “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:40). God can cause the trees to clap their hands and the mountains to sing out his praises. Do you know that old song: “you shall go out with joy and be led forth in peace, the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you… and all the trees of the field will clap their hands…” Stuart Dauerman is the writer of that song, I knew him in S.F. He said to me once, of all the hundreds of songs he had written, that was the one that went around the world and back again, and he would have never predicted it. I think it’s because of the message: God does not need us, he can command the trees and the mountains to sing his praises. He can make the rocks sing his praises if he wants to. Why would God need me if an old rock would accomplish the same purpose. God IS God, and he chooses me.
Many years ago I was at my parents home when the phone rang. My father answered. A woman, a stranger, was having a crisis, and she called the first pastor in the yellow pages on the list. Her son had been adopted, he was getting older, and he was starting to ask questions. Should I tell him he was adopted? This must have been a providential phone call, because my brother was adopted, and my parents never kept that a secret. I used to tell my mother she paid too much! My father said to the woman, “Yes, tell him he was adopted, and say to him, “Your father and I chose you.”’
God doesn’t need me. A rock will do. But he chose me. And I don’t know why. But I do know God IS God and that is more than enough. And in his mercy he has chosen you. And to all who accept his mercy, the blessings of knowing Jesus Christ are given.
God IS God. Reject and you’ll struggle. Go ahead and keep yourself on the throne so everything has to make sense to you ~ you’ll find your limits quickly.
The better choice: accept. Accept God’s freedom, submit to God. God IS God. He is free to do whatever he wants. He can deal with you and me any way he chooses. He is the same God, but he has complete freedom to treat me different from you. He can choose to treat me different tomorrow than he did today. He is not obligated to explain himself to me. Remove yourself and put God on the throne, make him the center. Submitting to the sovereignty of God leads to an incredible peace.
We have allowed God to be everywhere but on his throne. No wonder we are always searching and frustrated and unhappy. No wonder life does not work right. Put God on the throne: Cry out with the psalmist, “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker!” (Psalm 95:6). God is God. He alone decides. God’s word cannot fail, for he is God. Only God can say “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” Put him on the throne of your life, let him be the decider, and you will find peace. Amen.
Note: the material below is paragraphs I reluctantly edited out of the sermon because of the length, but I thought it worthwhile to consider on their own....
Bonus thought #1: The Jews are the chosen people of God. What does that mean? I am convinced they are not chosen to be God’s favorite, not special above others, certainly not better than Gentiles (everyone that is NOT Jewish), because the Bible clearly says Jesus died for the Sins of the World! We who are not Jewish are not second best ~ the default children because the Jews rejected Christ. God’s purpose from the beginning was to offer the promise of salvation to all people, Jew and gentile, slave and free … You know what it means to be the chosen people of God? When God first spoke to Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, the prophecy ended with these words: “All people on earth shall be blessed through you.” The ultimate purpose of making the Jews the chosen people is not only to love them and bless them, but also that they will be a blessing to everyone else (Gen. 12:3). Isaiah makes it even more plain in Is. 49:6: “I will … make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”
Bonus thought #2: I was in my office one day in the church in San Francisco when I got a knock on the door. It was a woman who identified herself as a Jew. She had seen the sign on the building that said Jews for Jesus. I explained that was another church/group that used the building, but she wanted to ask me her questions anyway. How could a person be a Jew and a Christian? To her it was like oil and water ~ you can’t mix the two. As a young pastor I did my best to explain what it meant to be a Christian, Jesus as the Jewish messiah… I did my best to give an entirely inadequate by-the-book answer. She listened and nodded politely and looked rather puzzled, and then she came out with her real question. What she really wanted to know has fascinated me all these years: the Ten Commandments say, Honor your father and mother… this woman’s real question: if a young Jewish person becomes a Christian, isn’t that dishonoring the parents and by extension dishonoring God? I can come up with an answer that satisfied me, you can probably construct an answer that makes sense to you, but this woman was genuinely struggling with the question. I did my best, but no satisfaction. I tried going with a lesser argument so she could see the greater, and she agreed with me that if a son chose a different favorite color from his parents that was not dishonoring, but that wasn’t quite the same as being a Jew and becoming a Christian…she walked out of my office more bewildered than when she came in a half hour earlier. I never saw her again. I felt like a failure. Ultimately I know it wasn’t about me. The woman had to find acceptance in her own heart. Her problem is the same as our problem. We know the answer for why things happen. We just don’t like it. I think this woman knew in her head, but not her heart.
We love to sing the song, “What a friend we have in Jesus,” as we rightly visualize Jesus knowing everything about us, know the number of hairs on our head, loving each of us personally… when I was a child I was right there when my first Sunday School teacher, the best teacher possible, my mother, told us the story of the four men that opened up a hole in the roof and let the sick man down to reach Jesus ~ I was that man on the mat loved by Jesus, forgiven and healed ~ then I turn to that death gripping confrontation when Isaiah met God in the temple (Is. 6:1-5) and God was so overwhelming and so massive that all Isaiah could see was the hem, the stitching of his robe; the vison was so earth shattering and glorious that Isaiah’s first response was to declare himself a sinful man that is as good as dead: WOE IS ME.